Xanthopterin in the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis): Light absorbance is increased with maturation of yellow pigment granules

Marian Plotkin, Stanislav Volynchik, Natalya Y. Ermakov, Avishai Benyamini, Yulia Boiko, David J. Bergman, Jacob S. Ishay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Oriental hornet bears both brown and yellow colors on its cuticle. The brown component is contributed by the pigment melanin, which is dispersed in the brown cuticle and provides protection against insolation, while the yellow-colored part contains within pockets in the cuticle granules possessing a yellow pigment. These yellow granules (YG) are formed about 2 days prior to eclosion of the imago, and their production continues for about 3 days posteclosion. Xanthopterin is the main component of the granule and lends it its yellow color. Xanthopterin produces a characteristic excitation/emission maximum at 386/456 nm. Characterization by use of mass spectrometry showed the compound to have a molecular ion of 179, as expected from xanthopterin. Spectroscopic examination of the absorption of an entire stripe of yellow cuticle in the course of its metamorphosis revealed that the absorption steadily increases throughout the process to a maximal level of absorption about 3 days posteclosion. In the absence of the YG, the cuticle is permeable to the passage of all wavelengths within the visible range and to the UV range (290-750 nm) in all age groups of hornets. The newly ecloded hornets depart the nest to engage in activities requiring exposure to insolation only as the process of granule formation terminates, namely, when the layer of YG in the cuticle suffices to absorb all the harmful UV radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-961
Number of pages7
JournalPhotochemistry and Photobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009


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